Hills of Iron, Artifact ID Day on tap for Saturday
by Marie Nesmith
Mar 16, 2011 | 2494 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Red Top Mountain State Park’s staff and volunteers ‘tap’ the furnace to allow the molten iron to fall into the ladle in preparation for being poured into the scratch block molds.
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Bartow County's former American Indian inhabitants and once-heralded iron industry will be highlighted Saturday at Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites' Cartersville venues. Starting at 9 a.m., Red Top Mountain State Park will host the Hills of Iron, which will place Mark Anthony Cooper, who is regarded as the Iron Man of Georgia, his Etowah Manufacturing and Mining Co. and the town of Etowah to the forefront of discussion.

"The iron industry in Bartow County was a significant part of the county's history," said Damon Kirkpatrick, president of the about 1,200-member Friends of Red Top and manager of chapter services for Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. "Pre-Civil War, it was the industry that really brought Cartersville and Cassville into existence.

"What we try to do on the Hills of Iron day is relive what some of that would have looked like. We have a blast furnace to help people understand some of the scientific principles -- how we melt iron, what we do with it once it melts, that kind of thing. But then we've also got a small-scale replica of the furnaces that were actually used in the area, so people can see more of the historical aspect."

The schedule for Hills of Iron will include:

* 9 a.m. -- Patrons will meet at Cooper's Iron Furnace at the Cooper's Furnace Day Use Area on River Road.

* 9:15 to 11 a.m. -- The town of Etowah and Cooper's Iron Furnace will be discussed. Weather permitting, Stan Bearden, resident geologist for New Riverside Ochre Co., also will conduct a tour of the company and talk about the significance of mining in Bartow.

* Noon to 1 p.m. -- Participants will travel by wagon to view an 1800s open pit iron mine at the state park. Tours depart from the Iron Hill parking lot at noon, 12:30 and 1 p.m.

* 2:30 p.m. -- Red Top's Mini Cooper iron furnace will be in operation.

The last activity of the day will be an iron pour starting at 6 p.m. After firing up Maryanne, Red Top's 8-foot-tall cupola furnace, iron pieces will be melted to form designs created by the public. Participants will be able to purchase scratch block molds for $7 each. The molds will be sold behind the Park Office, which used to be the lodge, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

"Our scratch blocks are always a huge hit," Kirkpatrick said. "Folks can buy a mold that we actually pour iron into, and they scratch that mold with any artwork of their choice and get to take home a block of iron with their artwork on it. So it's pretty exciting, especially for the kids. We actually have a limited number of those available. We have to limit them, otherwise we'd be pouring iron all night."

For more information, call 770-975-0055 or visit www.gastateparks.org. To attend the free event, individuals will need to have an annual pass or purchase a $5 daily ParkPass at the Park Office or Visitor Center.

At the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Artifact Identification Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to bring artifacts for archaeologist Lloyd Schroder to date and identify. Admission is $5 for adults, $4.50 for senior adults and $3.50 for youth.

"I participate with other organizations all over the state in identifying artifacts in this kind of a setting where people bring their things in," Schroder said. "Probably the most exciting [part] is just first to meet the people and get to know them and secondly to see the surprise and the excitement in their face when I tell them what they have."

While Schroder expects the majority of items to be prehistoric American Indian projectile points and pottery, he said the event always uncovers a few surprise treasures.

"A fellow was digging up a water line in his front yard and ran across what looked like a fence post. They brought it, and it was a wooden butter churn," Schroder said, adding the colonial item was from at least the early 1800s. "It was about 4-foot long. So you can see anything [at this event]. But anything that's curious, anything that looks like something [I encourage people to bring]. Unfortunately, I've had the other side of that where a guy brought about four grocery sacks full of tree roots and thought they were Indian carvings. But you just have to be as kind as you can and say, 'In my opinion, these are not.'"

While attending the event, patrons are encouraged to tour the 54-acre venue where several thousand American Indians lived from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast, the Etowah Indian Mounds -- 813 Indian Mounds Road, S.W., in Cartersville -- features six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and defensive ditch. Along with examining artifacts in the museum, other notable features at the site include a dugout canoe and a reproduction of a wattle and daub hut.

For more information about the Etowah Indian Mounds, which is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., call 770-387-3747.